The Bach Players reviewed in ‘Concerto’

Medium concerto 201305 cover sm

Thumbing through old reviews, we found this short retrospective piece from 2013 in ‘Concerto’, the authoritative Early Music magazine published from Cologne. The review by Bernd Heyder, one of ’Concerto’’s co-editors, was prompted by our Pachelbel and Bach CD, and looks back to the two earlier CDs that we based on Bach’s cantatas: Every one a chaconne and Nun komm!. Our newest CD, Bach and his rivals, now joins this sequence.

A CD series by the London group The Bach Players, almost unnoticed in this country, has pursued – for a few years already – a ‘contextual’ approach in which vocal and instrumental soloists are gathered under the aegis of the leader Nicolette Moonen. Thus in Every one a chaconne Bach’s cantatas BWV 150 and 78 are juxtaposed with appropriate instrumental compositions by Henry Purcell and Philipp Heinrich Erlebach; Nun komm! French ouvertures by German composers presents cantatas BWV 61 and 97, with their chorale overtures, alongside another Erlebach composition – but also Heinrich Isaac’s ‘Innsbruck, ich muß dich lassen’ (whose Cantus firmus turns up in BWV 97).

The latest issue of this kind is the double CD Pachelbel and Bach: canons and cantatas, in which Bach’s cantata ‘Christ lag in Todesbanden’ BWV 4 and its evident model, the cantata by Johann Pachelbel of the same name, are of course included. Less evident to the ears are the parallels between other works by this composer from Nuremberg, but active as an organist for many years in Thuringia (and not least as teacher of Bach’s older brother Johann Christoph), and the compositions that Bach wrote in Weimar and Leipzig, even years or decades after Pachelbel’s death. Among the cantatas in this recording, one can hear both composers’ treatments of the text ‘Was Gott tut, das ist wohlgetan’; and of the canons – Pachelbel’s D major evergreen and Bach’s 14 canons on the bass part to the Goldberg Variations. One can vouch for an incisive and entertaining anthology by this ensemble, and equally for musically light-footed and convincing interpretations. One can also be excited about further such recordings from St Michaels’s Church in Highgate, London.

Concerto, no. 249, May / June 2013, p. 45
[translation rk]